Friday, 26 October 2012

Assessing Accessions

Fiona’s handiwork in the foreground, with Fiona in the background

An update from Fiona, one of our volunteers in the Conservation Studio…

Recently, LHSA has been fortunate to receive several new items for the collection and for the past few sessions, I have been preparing these for archiving.

Having been issued an accession number by the Archivist, the items have to be checked here in the Conservation Studio before being catalogued and permanently preserved.

Each piece is examined to ensure its own general stability and also that it does not pose a potential risk to the rest of the collection. Some of the things I have been looking for are extreme dirt, infestations of any kind, signs of mould, folding and general disorder which could lead to tearing, and staples and paperclips which could rust. I came across examples of many of these things amongst the accessions and found myself straightening up lots of piles of notes, removing excessive metalwork, surface cleaning some extremely dirty files, and placing a jotter in a box of its own for a few weeks, just in case the long-dead spider that I found had left any offspring! I also came across a large number of photographs, which I placed in Melinex sleeves for their protection whilst being catalogued.

Although many accessions appeared to have no specific order to them, that is not something that I know for certain, so I had to keep things in the order in which they came. This had its difficulties, as the accessions contained a huge variety of items, including bound books and textiles, and many records have photographs paper-clipped on at relevant parts of the text. I have had the opportunity to really think like a Conservator and try to decide what is best for the item and how it is understood.

After this work, the accessions are placed in acid-free folders and low-acid boxes to go back to be catalogued. Some, such as large document folders and textiles, needed custom-built folders.

This batch of new accessions covered everything from a nurse’s linen laundry bag from her student days and 50-year-old patient files to photographs of Doctors’ Boards. The most wonderful piece for me though was a book of poems, pictures and messages to a wartime nurse from the many injured soldiers she had cared for. I so enjoy my time here as I never know what will be coming my way next.

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